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Faith and the Brain; Profile Father Leo -... News/Business. (2010) Neurotheology explores whether meditation and prayer impact the brain; the Rev. Leo Patalinghug promotes healthy eating. (CC) (Stereo)

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  WHUT    Religion Ethics Newsweekly    Faith and the Brain; Profile Father Leo -...   
   News/Business.  (2010) Neurotheology explores whether meditation and...  

    August 1, 2010
    8:30 - 9:00am EDT  

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coming up, faith and the brain, how spirituality affects us. >> not only does it have a profound influence on who we are, but it actually can change our brain and to change ourselves over time. >> and father leo, a priest who's also a chef. he says food is a natural part of hiss ministry. >> theologically, this is what jesus did. most of his greatest lessons were taught around a dinner table. plus for kids, an interactive museum with a religious twist. major funding for "religion & ethics weekly" is provided by the lily indownment, an
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indianapolis based private family foundation dedicated to its founders efforts in religion, community development and education. additional funding by mutual of america, designing customized individual and group retirement products. that's why we're your retirement company.com. also by the henry luce foundation and the corporation for public broadcasting. welcome. i'm kim lawton, sitting in for bob abber thety. thank you for joining us. as arizona's new immigration law renewed the call for comprehensive immigration reform. faith-based groups protests around the country as the new law went into effect. even as some of the most contentious provisions were blocked by a federal judge, several activist groups held rallies including phoenix and a lot.
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they called on president obama to push for reform. many in the faith community are particularly concerned about current immigration policies that break up families. >> the faith community has no other response, but to declare this immoral enemy. er iraq violence once again marred a popular shiite pilgrimage. and of people came for the annual gathering to celebrate the birth of a ninth century saint. and the public kept coming even after car bombings. although sectarian violence in iraq has developed significantly in recent years, holidays are frequently occasions for new attacks. this week the lutheran --
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he'll be the first arab leader of the umbrella group for the world's 70 million lutherans. he's based in jerusalem and has been a vocal advocate for religions bringing peace to the holy land. a new report from ebstown college in pennsylvania says america's amish communities are growing. they're still in their traditional communities in ohio, and lancaster county, p.a. but the search for affordable and fertile farm lands has led to amish settlements in 28 other states. because of high birthrates, the number of amish in the u.s. has increased by 10% in the last two years. it's the time of year when many of us try to schedule a va days to get away from it all. scientists have long found an
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association between relaxation and health. now there's growing evidence that spiritual practices have a beneficial and measurable affect on the grain. in his book meditation improves stress and how you view god can affect the structure of your brain. lucky severson has the story. >> reporter: as unlikely as it may seem, vincent is practicing medication. and you go into the whisper. vin isn't and his wife started meditation after they answered a questionnaire about improving your memory. he wanted to scan their brains while they did it. scans before he learned to meditate and after he had been doing it for eight weeks. >> before meditation here and
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here. and after meditation, it's more active here and here. so simply doing the practice of the metation, he's altered the activity in this very, very important part of the brain. this is really important because thiswd means that he's changede way his brain is working. >> reporter: since meditating, vincent feels he's become a better high school track coach. >> i think i have become a calmer, more tolerant person. the situation comes up, i don't go do the angry side, i take the calmer road and i think the kids see this. i think i have become a better coach because of it. >> it takes sense that if by doing this practice, he has increased the activity in that frontal lobe, he's actually able to improve the way in which he monitoring his emotional responses to people and perhaps can treat them with more compassion. >> reporter: the doctor has studied nuns who do repetitive prayer and has observed the same kind of results. he has done these studies on the
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brain for several years and is expert in neurotheology. >> we have learned that being religious or spiritual has a very profound affect on who we are, it has a profound affect on our biology and on our brain. what we have found more recently is that not only does it have a profound influence on who we are, but it can actually change our brain and change ourselves over time. >> here at the university of pennsylvania center for spirituality and the mind, images of the brain are taken during or after a person prays or meditates. >> the more you use a part of the brain, the more blood flow it gets and the brighter and more red it looks on the scan. >> the doctor has instituted a 12-step meditation exercise that includes sound, movement and breathing. >> the first two minutes, the manta is sung. the second two minutes, the
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mantra is whispered, the third sequence is silence. back into the whisper and finishing with the song. after that, it's deep breathing, holding in, that's done three times. body relaxes, and the mantra is completed. the minute i can start doing it and moving my fingers, my body gets calmer. it's -- to me it gets almost in a passive mode and then you have an issue afterwards because you became so calm. >> religion and spirituality do help to lower a person's feelings of depression, anxiety, gives them some meaning in life, helps them to cope with things and that's going to have a potentially very beneficial affect. >> but newberg has made another
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discovery, a controversial one, that our belief system, how we view god can make a difference in how it affects our well-being. ive we believe in a loving god, it can have a calming affect on our life. but belief in an angry god is create hatred and fear. >> whether it's people who believe in abortion versus those who doesn't, whether it's one religion versus another, when you hear rhetoric that's hateful, filled with anger, that turns on the different parts of the brain that are involved in our stress response and our anger response. >> reporter: george is a chaplain with the health care chaplainship of new york city. a person's belief that faith in god can be un -- >> they're saying that that there's one word of god and god
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commands us to follow that word. and if we want to save people from god's anger and condemnation, we're obliged to get other people to believe as we do. >> i'm not arguing that people need to change our beliefs per se, if they feel that their perspective on god is right, i mean, then that's terrific. but i think that -- i think that what we have to all be careful about is the anger and the hatred that that's what has detrimental affects both on the individual as well as on society as a whole. >> reporter: skeptics of newberg's work question whether science should be devilling into religion in the first place and we asked if his research is proving much of anything. >> faith is by definition, reliance on things you cannot see. and cannot know.
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faith is something we believe god gives to us, that it's not something we invent. as a person of faith, this whole debate about what is going to be knowable, it's not a particularly interesting question to me. >> you know, if we get a brain scan of somebody while they're experiencing being in god's presence, as i have always said, that doesn't prove that god is in the room, it doesn't prove whether god wasn't in the room. what matters is if the person had the experience of god, this is what's going on in their brain. >> reporter: some religious practices attention is focused and others where they allow just to be taken over. for example speaking in tongues. >> reporter: dr. newburgh has
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scanned the brains of people of all faiths, those of no faith and those of deskrigs. like donna mitchell. in. >> when you're in that realm of praise, you just give over to the holy spirit. >> reporter: there are some people who argue that certain people are predisposed or hard wires toward trance sent don't experiences, and some are not. it's an argument that the chaplain disagrees with. >> i don't believe in a god that creates people, especially selectively in a way that makes it difficult for them to access this god. that's not my god. >> i think to some degree we all are hard wired to be able to think about things on these levels. it's just a matter of how much we engage that and if we find a path that does help us to engage that for ourselves. >> reporter: newberg says people of faith should never worry that
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research would every diminish our faith. >> i don't think that science is going to definitively proof that god exists or doesn't exist. >> newberg believes the number one activity that can exercise your brain and enrich your life is faith. >> when you have those kind of positive, optimistic beliefs in the world, in god or religion, depending on the person, that that really over the long haul seems to be the thing that really provides a benefit for us in terms of our mental state and in terms of our physical health and well-being. >> as for his own faith, he describes himself as a searcher, who is still searching. for "religion & ethics weekly," i'm lucky severson in philadelphia. now a profile of father leo pataninghug who has turned his cooking show into a ministry. he's written a cookbook and he
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even took down bobby flay in a televised cooking competition last year. father leo is gaining international attention with his popular recipe of food, spirituality and laugher. i visited him at the seminary where he teaches. >> reporter: roman catholic priests deal a lot with spiritual food, but father leo works with food of a more earthly nature as well. >> i've got myself here a nice beautiful piece of frank steak. >> reporter: father leo is a chef who has his own cooking show called "grace before meals" it gets ten,000 hits a day from around the world. he's written a cookbook with the same title. >> we ask god to bless us and the food we'res about to receive. >> theologically, this is what jesus did. most of his greatest lessons were taught around a dinner table. >> reporter: in his day job, father leo is director of
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pastoral field education in the seminary in maryland. the second oldest and largest seminary in the country. >> sometimes i like to say i'm teaching future shepherds how to feed their hungry flock. >> reporter: he teaches on a variety of subjects on how to give a good sermon. >> i preach a teaching class which means i can't have guys dishing out steal, boring leftovers but dynamic things that are going to make their and titles just expand and to whet their appetites to show what we have to offer is good news. my love for cooking started just because i like to eat. i love that sound. after doing my activities, i would get bored quickly, mother would invite me to help her with cooking because it's a multitasking thing and that actually piqued my interest.
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>> reporter: father leo grew up in baltimore where his family had immigrated from the pinil means. >> my family's style of eating is very much a feast day celebration and, yes, we prayed before every meal and it was something very serious because in my country, not everyone gets a chance to eat. and so they reminded us that even though we were living in america, a land of plenty, there are a lot of people who don't have the blessings on the table as well as the blessings around the table. >> reporter: he didn't always know he would become a priest. he first dabbled in several other fields from breakdancing to martial arts. >> i used to be a martial artist. still practice a little bit of it. third degree black belt in structure and tae kwon do and a martial art. so if you ask what i did for fun before i became a priest, i used to beat people up with sticks,
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that's what i did. >> reporter: he says a series of events including a skiing accident and a breakup with his girlfriend had him turning to god in prayer. then he says he travelled to the philippines with the u.s. stick fighting people. >> i remember going to this one village and we were handing out candy to people and there was one little boy who only had a t-shirt on and he came up to me and i gave him a piece of candy and i looked in his eyes and i thought to myself, had it not been for my dad bringing us to america, that could be me. >> reporter: he felt that god was calling him to help people like that boy and to do so by becoming a priest. he entered seminary and was ordained ten years ago when he was 29. father leo says the food party of the ministry evolved naturally as he began building relationships with his parishioners. he often scheduled counseling sessions around meal times. >> they call me father, i'm supposed to be part of their family.
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so we could gather in the kitchen and i would help cook and i would help them set up the table and they would see the human side in me not just the spiritual side. >> the idea for a cooking show came just after september 11. >> so after a tragic weekend worth of masses, where the churches were full, hungering for inspiration of hope, we ourselves, the ministers, we were spent, so we went on a little retreat together, i did all the cooking, comfort food. so one of the priests suggested, i love watching you cook, it would be great if i had a video camera and just taped all this and you could talk about food, faith, family and culture and i looked at him and i said, that's one of the dumbest ideas i have ever heard. >> reporter: but his fellow priests didn't think it was so dumb. father leo says they kept nagging him about it and eventually connected him with a producer and a production company who loved the idea of a priest cooking show. >> see that slaw right there
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that's what confession is for. >> reporter: he now does web soeds of the cooking shows online often with the help of his seminarians, and his website has blogs. >> cleanliness is next to -- you know what i mean. >> reporter: he's also become a much sought after speaker in the country. >> this beef is going to, oh, my gosh, making me pray already. >> reporter: his motto is feeding people mind, body and soul. and he believes that families are strengthened when they share meals together. >> we know that families are buying so much into the fast food mentality, that they spend no time with each other. my objective with grace before meals is to create minithanksgivings throughout the year. >> when he speaks to a secular audience, he tried not to be aggressively religious. >> we all are hungering for something, and that's why people go everywhere. to find something to satisfy
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them. and what i would like to invite you to consider is to make sure you have a balanced diet for your body, your mind, and your soul. >> i loved how he brought the spirituality into the meal time and the family. i think that's probably what drew everybody's attention. and the food was delicious. >> reporter: he's gaining international attention. and was just challenged to a cooking competition by celebrity chef bobby flay. i asked him how he keeps it all from going to his head. >> i guess the celebrity status could be a temptation for anyone, but as a priest i'm somewhat protected in this, i'm required to spend time in quiet prayer and reflection. a holy hour a day gives me a great perspective. i'm just me doing something good for god. >> reporter: father leo does get criticism from some catholics who think it's inappropriate for a priest to be doing what he does. but he asserts that his food
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ministry is deeply christian. >> we believe at least in the catholic church what binds us together and what binds god to us is food. a piece of bread turned into the body and blood of christ, in which we are incorporated into his family. so i got to tell you, i know that the collar freaks people out a little bit. >> reporter: father leo says for him, one of the most important parts of his cooking ministry is reaching out to people who may be uncomfortable with priests and helping them learn a little aa"t god. >> he could take a breakdancing, board breaking, bread breaking priest and give hope to people who might not understand the church or might not understand a priest. >>er and that he says is a grace that extends beyond every meal. parents are often looking for entertaining and educational outings for their kids. well, an interactive museum in brooklyn, new york, helps children learn about the jewish faith, from holidays to traditional rituals and bible
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stories. education director rabbi nissen brenenson gave us a tour of the jewish children's museum. >> as you approach the museum and the first thing you see is a giant photo mosaic, and you see they're made up of thousands of smaller photographs of children of all ages and all races, then that contains a special message. and that is that we're really one. the gallery on the six days of creation and the sabbath contain -- you're actually walking on the table. there's a giant crawl through tunnel, inside the tunnel, you can learn about the ingredients, the significance of the special hollow bread. hanukkah is also a favorite. we have an olive oil drafting station where children can
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actually squeeze their own olive oil. and the olive oil is the miracle of the oil at the time of the hanukkah. by pressing this screen, and selecting the various symbolic items on this dinner plate, the children can watch short clips of what these symbols represent and the story of passover. >> the howe have our own specia talking tree. this is sort of a storyteller and it explains how man is compared to a tree in many ways. we have our roots, and that's our faith. and we also have our fruits and those are the good deeds that we perform. the journey continues into our kosher supermarket where children can scan products instead of coming up with
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prices, there are trivia questions about the kosher diet as well as a kosher kitchen. the last gallery on that floor focuses on values that are rooted in jewish tradition, but have also become universal, such as kindness, kindness to others, kindness to animals, respecting the environment and charity. in other news this week, we note two deaths in the world of religion. one of the country's last circuit preachers, pastor david brown passed away at the age of 64. he had served seven african-american congregations in mississippi and louisiana because they were too small to have their own pastor. our program did two stories about his ministry, brown said it doesn't matter how small the congregations were because as he put it, they have souls that need to be fed.
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>> i guess this is it for today. >> pastor brown collapsed and died at a revival meeting in west louisiana. and doug olden died after injuring his back during a fall. he was 79. olden worked with prominent evangelicals including jerry falwe falwell, billy graham and he recorded 6 a albums in a career that spanned more than four decades. finally a group of cloistered nuns are recording an album of their own. the benedictine sisters have signed a deal to produce an album of gregorians. in order not to destroy their cloistered way of life, the sisters will photograph their album cover and film their own music video. by the way, the nuns record video is the same one that brought you elton john, the
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rolling stones and lady georgia. i'm kim lawson, we would like you to follow us on our website. you can comment on all of our stories and share them, audio and video mod podcasts are also available. join us at pbs.org. >> as we leave you, more music from doug olden. ♪ when my heart is pained too deeply for a song.
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♪ when my way grows weary ♪ oh, yes he cares i know major funding for "religion & ethics weekly" is provided by the lily endownment, an indianapolis based private family foundation dedicated to its founders efforts in religion, community development and education. additional funding by mutual of america, designing customized individual and group retirement products. that's why we're your retirement company.com. also by the henry luce foundation and the corporation for public broadcasting.
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